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Face the Slayer

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The mud squirted up as I darted through the dark jungle. I had to escape. They were after me. I tripped over a log, rolled, jumped back up and kept running. I slid down and embankment. As I fled through the trees, a dark shape suddenly lunged out of the shadows at me, letting out an ear piercing scream of savagery.

I woke in sweat, my lungs gasping for air. My heart was beating as fast as a race car, and banged in my ears. It had been a nightmare, a realistic nightmare, but a nightmare none the less.

The clock read 3:45 AM on it. I slowly fell backwards in relief. For over four decades I had suffered these vivid dreams. It didn’t always happen, but some nights were little nocturnal hells. They were always dreams of war and death, and were all related to my past.

Looking back now, it isn’t as far behind me as I thought it was.

I was drafted to fight in Vietnam in June of 1968, when I was 19. I was working in my dad’s party store in Venice, California when I received the news. My best friend, Carlos Tecumseh Hernandez, who went by the name Tec, was also drafted. We did months of training before being sent to the war.

We coincidentally were placed in the same Unit, and it was only a week before we saw fierce fighting. We were in the northern part of Southern Vietnam in 1969 when our unit came under heavy artillery fire.

We ducked into a river and from the banks returned shots, and sergeant Robert Louis, who was to my right, stood up to get a good aim with a rocket launcher. He was hit immediately. Several bullets struck him in his chest and crimson blood shot across my face. I almost screamed. As he turned to collapse, a sniper bullet struck him in the head. Bits of brains, flesh and his blood covered me and nearby troops, and his lifeless body floated away down the river.

In panic, Private Steven Grace tried to flee in a screaming dart through the woods. Rapid fire cut him down fast.

For hours we fought and three more men were killed. Commander John Hope finally told us to hold fire. For another hour the Viet Cong sprayed the bank with bullets. They then stopped, and thinking we were dead moved in slowly under the cover of darkness.

As they approached, I could see their camouflaged faces and uniforms. The commander whispered to us to fire when he gave the bird whistle. The Viet Cong soldiers were soon only feet away and he gave it.

We sprung up and opened fire, mercilessly cutting the enemies down. We then darted forward toward their position, as they tried to hit us from the hill. Private Adam Westly rolled into a hole and fire an RPG, which destroyed the enemy outpost on the hill.

We then darted uphill and came to the top, right inside a small village. “Are these North or South Vietnamese?” I asked. “The Viet Cong were here,” Commander Hope replied. “That’s all that matters.” He then ordered us to “line em up.” I asked him what he meant and he and his two sergeants demonstrated in graphic detail. He aimed a handgun at a woman and child and with two shots killed both of them.

Tec gasped and I almost fainted. “We can’t kill civilians!” one soldier yelled.

“Private Johnson, do you want to be punished for disregarding orders?” the commander asked.

“I’ll stand trial if it means not killing them,” the private replied.

“I don’t mean trial,” Commander Hope replied. I heard his gun click. The private teared up a bit and slowly turned toward the gathered crowd.

“Total war is a must, and scorched earth is a policy,” the Commander stated to us. “We must defeat the Viet Cong at all costs, and this is their supply base. You soldiers are gonna wipe it out, every person, every home, all weapons. Leave nothing.” Him and the two sergeants aimed machine guns at us and we were forced to do their deeds.

We went through the village shooting and killing all the people. Tec sweated and I cried. Under the top sergeant’s gun, Tec had to shoot a pregnant woman dead.

I aimed at a little boy, of about five years of age. “I’m sorry,” I choked out in tears. I closed my eyes and pulled the trigger, feeling warm blood strike my face. Soon, the village was burning down and we left with cartons of ammunition.

“Good job boys,” Commander Hope said. “In the morning, we’ll start back for Saigon.”

The next morning, we found the commander dead. He was tied to a tree and shot in the forehead. His two other sergeants were also dead, one choked to death and one hung from a tree. We also found Private Scott Kimberly dead. He had died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

We found out that him, Jeffrey Stanley, and Willy Hunter had snuck around and killed the men, then Scott had killed himself before Willy and Jeffrey, out of pure horror and despair. Only 4 of us remained. It was just me, Tec, Willy and Jeffrey. Everyone else was gone.

Our trip back to Saigon took two weeks. We were attacked several times and Willy was killed by a Funji spike trap. Jeffrey was injured when shot in the leg by a young Viet Cong soldier, who’s handgun ran out of ammo fast. We killed him quickly. We finally reached Siagon, the only three survivors from Unit 23. When asked what happened, I said we were ambushed by the North Vietnamese, and left it at that.

The guilt I felt though haunted me still. I should’ve died. Death would be better than life as a killer. I had shot that poor boy and buried him. Tec was no less shaken. He had killed two lives, a mother and unborn baby, and didn’t speak again for months.

When he finally did, it was pure anguish and pain. We were placed in a new unit and faced many more horrors and deaths. We finally returned to America in 1971, but nothing was the same. Tec was sent to a mental hospital for 5 years while I lived in Venice, working the job my dad had done.

I kept having nightmares of Vietnam, mostly of other battles. The worst ones though were of the massacre, usually flashes of the maimed and butchered bodies of the dead.

I would shoot up in bed and yell, and then realize I was okay and it was a dream. I was too irritable and would flip out easily. For about three years this lasted. The nightmares eventually began receeding away, becoming a twice a month occurrence instead of every night. My temper also chilled down and I eventually got a job at Tech-Com, a weapon corporation.

I spent a decade working my way up and became the assistant manager. Meanwhile, I married Sonya Rodriguez, my high school prom date who I had stayed in connection with.

The events of that tragic night in 1969 still haunted me though. Decades passed and I grew older. My two sons grew up and moved away, heading to New York. Tec came home and got a job as a cab driver, but never was quite the same. He had vivid nightmares every week and his wife divorced him in 1987. I reconnected with him in the 1980s and hadn’t seen him in years.

I soon had to move to San Francisco in 2007, but modern tech like Facebook let us stay in touch this time. It would be over Facebook that I would coordinate a trip to Venice. What would happen next over the week in Southern California would be so utterly horrifying, I would be scarred for the rest of my life.

I messaged Tec around 4:30 AM on Wednesday. The messaging was as follows:

"Hey Tec, what are you doing this Friday?"

"Not much, just work and then I’m coming home for dinner…why?"

"I was thinking we should get together this weekend, I mean I haven’t seen you in three years."

"Wow really? That’d be great. Look Mark, I’m gonna have family over but I Can work with that. Friday around 7:00 in the evening would work."

"That’s great. Well, what should we do?"

"My grandson Francisco wanted to see the new movie out, assassins of war. I heard it’s good."

"Well, I guess we could do that."

"We could go out to the bar after that."

"Yeah, just like good old times."

"Yeah. Well, It’ll be great. I’ll see you in a few days."

"See ya Tec."

I felt good. I’d get to see a boyhood friend again, and a war buddy. Tec and me were so close. I couldn’t fathom it. I don’t know how I would feel if he left this life. Well, I didn’t know. I would all too soon find out.

I pulled up on Thursday to the Ramada Marina Del Ray hotel around 10 PM. It was there that the horror began. I unloaded and entered the hotel.

“Mr. Mark Stevenson?” The clerk at the desk asked. “Yeah, that’s me,” I replied. He handed me what I needed. “Here’s your room key and breakfast is at 7. We will give you a wakeup call.” I thanked him and proceeded to my room. I unloaded my junk and fell asleep on the bed. My eyes closed and darkness overtook me.

I suddenly felt water hitting my face. “Shit,” I said. “If this place has leaks those bastards are in for it.” I reached over to grab some tissues that were next to my bed and my hand hit something wet. My eyes shot open. My arm was lying in mud and the bed felt awfully hard.

More water was hitting me now. I began to realize my surroundings weren’t the ones I had fallen asleep in. I slowly stood up and brushed off my pants. My vision adjusted and I realized I was in a jungle.

“What?” I asked. The sky was partially cloudy and I could see a gibeous moon hanging over the dark forest. Where was I? Was I dreaming? My dreams were usually of battles I’d been in. None occurred in this setting. The only battle at night was the massacre. There was one other issue too. I was alone. In my usual nightmares, I was with the full patrol. This one played on two large fears of mine, the fear of the dark, and worst of all, the fear of being alone.

“Hello?” I called into the jungle. No answer. The rainforest animal cries were the only noise other than the soft pattering of rain. I walked forward through the darkness, trying to find out where I was and suddenly, there was a loud crashing as something fell through the canopy of the woods.

I rolled backwards and pulled out my pocket knife, ready to confront whatever nightmarish being was headed for me. Something large hit the ground and stood up, groaning. I was ready to strike and it turned to face me. My heart pounded as it turned around and I realized it knew I was here, and there was nowhere to run.

It fully turned around and I let out a huge sigh. It was Tec, or rather, Tec in my dream. He was younger looking, as he looked in the war, and wearing full camouflage. “Mark?” He asked. “Where am I? I wasn’t here a minute ago.” “Yeah, you was falling out of a chopper,” I laughed, realizing I could finally control the dream.

“Let’s get 'em private.” “Okay, this has to be a dream because the Mark Stevenson I know ain’t a bitch.” I snapped around.

“The real Tec I know ain’t a badmouthing piece of shit!” I yelled. “Yeah, this is a dream,” he stated.

“No shit Sherlock,” I replied. “My dream is what this is.” “Your dream?!” Tec yelled. “You’re just a figment of my imagination, I’m the dreamer here!” “Whoa imaginary version of my friend, you have it all wrong,” I replied.

“See, I’m the dreamer. You’re just the imaginary character in my mind designed to look like my comrade.” “You really are a bitch for a dream character,” he yelled at me. As I and he grew more annoyed, a loud crack suddenly pierced the silence.

It then grew quiet again and I suddenly felt as if cold eyes were watching me from the shadows. The humor in me died fast and Tec became silent. Then, I saw them.

Glowing red eyes were watching me, or maybe us, from the darkness not far away. This wasn’t normal. My dreams were about real horrors of war, not whatever bizarre event this was.

I sensed this was going to be a very unnatural dream, unlike my others. I slowly drew my gun, which I just realized I was carrying. Then, the eyes moved in. They approached from all sides, snarling and slobbering, like wolves moving in for a kill.

As they stepped into the moonlight, I gasped. Something straight from hell stood before me. They looked like Vietnamese civilians, dressed the same and Asian in appearance. The difference was their features. They looked like DEAD Vietnamese civilians.

Blood covered their decaying faces, and their eyes were filled with a hatred unknown to mankind. Tec let out a cry and turned to run. As he did, he fell through a hole and I heard a loud splatter. Crimson liquid flew out of the hole and caked the grass. Inside, Tec lay dead. The mob of undead, demonic Vietnamese villagers started grinning and then they charged.

I turned and began running, in blind terror through the woods. I slid down a river bank and darted across a bridge to the other side. All I could think of was the nightmarish horrors catching up behind me.

The mud squirted up as I darted through the dark jungle. I had to escape. They were after me. I tripped over a log, rolled, jumped back up and kept running. I slid down and embankment. As I fled through the trees, a dark shape suddenly lunged out of the shadows at me, letting out an ear piercing scream of savagery.

I woke in sweat, my heart pounding faster than a racecar. I flipped over to get a bearing of my surroundings. The first thing I saw was the clock. 4:45 AM it read. I sighed, realizing I was back in my hotel room.

I sat up and wiped sweat off my face. That had been one wild nightmare. It was beyond comprehension. Was this normal? It had been decades since I was in the forests of Vietnam and I didn’t even know if this was normal for recent war vets. The occult events of the dream differed from the more realistic horror I ever had seen while in that nocturnal hell. Had Tec had dreams like this? He was less together than even I was after the war. I had to ask him. Maybe it was normal. Maybe war vets have strange dreams.

The rain fell steadily when I rang Tec’s doorbell. It was a hot, stormy July day, and I was dying to see Tec, especially after-I didn’t want to think about it. A face appeared in a nearby window and then, a moment later, the door unlatched.

“Hey, it’s my old pal Mark,” Tec yelled in glee.

We manhugged. “It’s been a few years,” I replied.

“Yeah, it has,” Tec said. “Come on in, come in.”

We sat down with some glasses filled with Scotch and he began talking. “So, anything happen with you recently?”

I wasn’t sure if I wanted to ask him about it so soon, but I had no choice. “Well yes actually. Um, Tec, when you returned from Nam, did you have any horrific nightmares?”

“Well Mark, I had the usual, dreams of fierce fighting and death.” “No Tec, I mean, almost unreal ones.”

He paused. “Not until now.” I leaned in to listen. “It began last night,” Tec started. “I dropped fast and when I fell asleep, I suddenly found myself in a jungle, like Vietnam. It was a somewhat rainy night and I then realized too late I was in a tree branch. I, uh, fell to the ground hard.”

I began sweating. Something was familiar about this. “I got up to look around and there you were, in full uniform, looking like back in 1969. We got talking and you kept saying you were the one dreaming, but I said ‘No, I’m the real one. You’re an imaginary figure.’ Then…they arrived.” I gulped hard. This was sounding eerily similar to my dream.

“Those things, oh God they were like some kind of war ghosts or something. They looked Vietnamese, but they were all blood soaked and their eyes, oh lord their eyes.” “What Tec, what about their eyes?” “…They had no pupils. It was just red, like glowing tail lights. The Mark in my dream noticed them too.” I shivered. “Tec,” I asked.

“Yes Mark?”

“I don’t know how to tell you this.” “What? What is it?” “I had that same dream,” I replied. “Mark stop fooling around.” “Tec, I swear.” “Fine Mark, if you did, tell me, what happened next?” “You fell in a tiger pit and got cut up.” He was silent. I was silent.

“I’m sorry about being a dick last night,” I stated.

“Okay, so what you’re saying is we had the same dream?”

“Yeah,” I replied.

“Based on what happened, it’s sounding like some modern video games,” Tec said. “It’s dreaming, multiplayer style.”

“Damn, if we could do that every night,” I responded.

“I’ll pass,” Tec told me. “That was horrific.”

“I’ve had dreams about battles in Vietnam, but never anything like that. Nothing was supernatural.”

Tec was silent and then spoke. “What if it wasn’t just a dream?” he asked. “What if we were there last night?”

“Oh, for God’s sake Tec,” I replied. “I woke in my hotel room! Are you suggesting we were teleported back in time to Vietnam last night?” “Not physically,” he replied.

“I dabbled with spiritualism a lot in the 1980s and they say you can leave your body willfully at night, if you know how.”

“Well I don’t know,” I replied. “Inform me grand master.”

“Those weren’t just dream beings,” Tec replied. “Those were them. They’ve come back for us Mark! Don’t you see it?!”

“Tec, what occurred was weird, but trust me, it was just a dream.” Tec gazed out the window at the falling rain outside.

“Mark,” he said, “I hope you’re right.”

I returned to the hotel around 9:00 that night, still shivering when I thought about the dream. “Relax,” I said to myself. “It was just a dream!” I didn’t believe myself. I was bad at lying and sucked at lying to myself.

I brushed my teeth and went to bed early, pulling the covers up. That night, I fell into a deep, calm sleep, unlike the night before.

My eyes shot open in total darkness. “Man, it’s dark,” I said. The clock read 3:15 AM and I got up to go to the bathroom. I had just returned when I felt it. It was the same feeling I felt in the nightmare. It was like some invisible person was watching me.

I gulped loudly and looked around. I saw nothing, so why did I feel a presence? It was then that I noticed the sound of moving air. “This hotel is drafty,” I said. I listened on and began noticing a pattern to the draft. I soon began thinking it sounded like whispering.

No, I was just being paranoid. I hurried to bed and reached to turn out the light. It was at that moment I saw him.

In the corner of the room was a dark shape. I at first thought it was a shadow but the whispering continued and I began realizing it was coming from that direction. I sat up in bed. “H-hello,” I called out. That was my first mistake. The shape turned. I almost screamed.

Standing there, in the corner and glaring at me, was a man. He was around 5-and-a-half feet tall and soaked in blood. His eyes glowed red. He wore rags for clothes and had a wide, cone shaped hat on.

“No. NO!” I yelled. He grinned, and with inhuman speed pounced at me. He landed in front of my face and pulled out a knife, screaming at me in Vietnamese. Then, with a single slash, the light went out.

I woke in sunlight and sighed. “What a dream,” I said. I got up and noticing a stinging sensation, went to the bathroom to get aftershave ointment. I opened the mirror door and pulled out the ointment, then closed it. When I looked in the mirror, I screamed.

A long gash had been slashed down my face, and there were several smaller cuts on my chins and jawline. The blood was dry and crusty, but there was no mistaking this for a minor shave accident. I had gone to bed just fine and woken up with injuries to my face.

“Shit that wasn’t a dream!” I yelled.

“That’s scary alright,” Tec told me. “Are you sure that wasn’t a nightmare?”

“Do you see the slice on my face?” I asked him. “I have bandages all over me for a reason. You know, the last thing I expected was to be attacked by some angry ghost from Vietnam. I’m shocked he didn’t kill me right there.”

“Maybe they’re waiting to kill you,” Tec replied. “Maybe we aren’t supposed to just die. It’s like a game possibly.” “Well, it’s a scary game,” I said. “How was your night last night?” “Scary,” Tec replied. “Scary?” I asked. “Let me explain,” Tec said to me.

“Last night as I got ready for bed, I started feeling like I was being watched by somebody. I looked out into the hallway but no one was there. I quickly headed to bed, but all night I was awake, and the feeling didn’t go away until the sun peaked above the horizon.”

I shivered. “Go on Tec.”

“Well, I’m starting to feel like someone is after us. Those people in that village didn’t just die afraid. They died angry. I guess that anger lives on after death and now, after 45 years, it’s found us.”

He stood up. “Forty-five damn years!” he screamed. “I had to deal with the trauma for a decade and I thought it was over. Now this happens!” He sat down. “And worst of all, it’s happening to me.”

“Maybe we can make them leave us alone. Remember Ouija boards?” “Yeah,” Tec replied. “Let’s buy one and try and talk to them. Maybe we can get them to go away.” Tec sneered. “Yeah, or they’ll come right through and kill us both right then and there.

“Look, think about it tonight and I’ll talk to you in the morning,” I said as I headed for the door. “Mark, don’t try anything that could get you killed,” Tec said to me.

“I won’t,” I replied.

“Don’t,” he repeated.

I went for a walk that night, and headed down the lonely streets of Venice. The sky was cloudy and rain fell. Lightning flashed and thunder roared above me. As I turned the corner onto a dark side street, I began feeling paranoid again. Someone was watching me. I knew it. I gazed around the dark street, but saw nothing.

The lightning flashed again, and I saw it. Someone was standing on the sidewalk down the street, and they were walking toward me. The street was dark again and I lost sight of the figure. The lightning again flashed, and this time, they were closer.

I backed up in fear and realized something was wrong about this guy. It was raining and I was the only one walking, or I was supposed to be. Was I about to be mugged? I fumbled for my knife and got a hold of it. The next lightning flash revealed he wasn’t far from me and my heart almost stopped. The man had red eyes.

I turned and walked away fast, hoping he might have not seen me, though a part of me knew better. I heard footsteps behind me walking fast. I walked faster. They walked faster. I soon broke into a run and I heard footsteps pounding behind me. I turned to look.

A flash of lightning revealed a grinning ghoul sprinting behind me, and I ran faster. I turned a corner and he cut it. He charged and pounced. I pulled my knife and slashed at him. The knife passed right through the apparition and he slashed at my neck. The fingers sliced a gash in me and I fell.

I slashed at him again to no avail as he sliced my ear. He clawed at me and blood spilled. I was screaming and preparing for death when suddenly, headlights blinded me. The spirit yelled in anger and gazed down at me. “Tec Hernandez,” he whispered before darting away. I gasped. He was going to get Tec next.

I returned to the hotel soaked in blood and picked up the phone. I dialed Tec’s number. “Hello,” he said.

“Tec, it’s me,” I replied.


“Tec, where are you going tonight?”

“My grandson’s baseball game,” he replied. “Why?” I slammed the phone down and darted for my car.

I reached the baseball diamond in the neighborhood around 10. The game was 30 minutes from ending. I saw Tec and made my way toward him.

“Tec,” I yelled. He turned, saw me and gasped in horror.

“Mark!” he yelled back. “What happened to you? You’re all clawed up!”

“Tec, we gotta go,” I said to him.

“Why? My grandson wants me here and the game is close to ending,” Tec replied. I then noticed the feeling again.

“Oh no,” I said softly.

“They’re here.”

“Who’s here?!” Tec asked. Then he froze. A muddy hand grasped the side of the half lit bleachers and two red eyes appeared in the shadows, then another pair of eyes, and then more. Soon we were observing a gang of ghosts. Tec froze in horror. “No, NO!” he yelled. They slowly edged toward us, but no one else around us noticed them.

“No! Oh God help me!” Tec screamed to no avail. I watched him back up toward the end of the stands. He was pressed against the edge, looking for a way out. The angry dead ones passed me and soon were face to face with Tec. The lead one grinned and with a cry of screaming vengeance, which caught the attention of the other people, gashed him in the head. Tec swung backwards and yelled as he fell, plunging 20 feet down.

I screamed. The ghosts were suddenly gone, but so was my friend. I heard murmuring and yells and looke dover the side of the bleachers to see Tec lying on the pavement below, a puddle of crimson forming around his head. He was still. I darted down to his side and screamed at bystanders to call an ambulance. I checked his pulse. I felt nothing. His face was torn apart, worse than mine had been when I was attacked. The back of his head was blood splattered. I broke down in tears, realizing the last person I’d been in Vietnam with was dead. The ambulance rolled up ten minutes later, and took Tec away. I rode in the back of it.

They took him in, and in minutes they pronounced him dead. I knew they couldn’t save him. That undead bastard got him good. I left the hospital and walked home in shock. I was in a daze, and passed across busy intersections with horns screeching at me. Upon reaching the hotel, I began packing my stuff. I jammed it in the suitcase and within an hour pulled out of the parking lot. The last thing I saw before I left were cold red eyes watching me from my hotel room window.

Mark Stevenson, age 67, was found dead in a car accident in central California on Sunday, July 19th of 2014. He had been missing for days and was reported by his wife. Mark’s vehicle had gone off the highway and into a ravine. He had suffered some broken bones and was soaked in blood, but what really caught the eye of investigators was his face. His face was dark purple as if he had been asphyxiated and even stranger, there were words cut into his back. The words were determined to be in Vietnamese and read, “The fallen are avenged.” State police are still investigating if this was a suicide or an act or murder, but no suspects have been named, and no one has been taken into custody.

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